3D printer to help Chch rebuild

CHARLEY MANN
Last updated 15:49 28/11/2012
Daniel Tobin

Charley Mann finds out how CPIT's new 3D printer works.

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CPIT's first three-dimensional printer could soon be spitting out models of machine parts to help with the rebuild.

The $110,000 3D printer will be launched tomorrow by the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT) after months of testing.

In a matter of hours, the printer can build 3D objects in robust, clear material - called acrylonitrile butadiene styrene - from computer files.

CPIT School of Engineering tutor Alex Greasley said the printer could play a part in the rebuild.

Christchurch design and prototyping firm Stratatec has already commissioned scale models. The firm emails CPIT the files it wants turned into objects.

Stratatec owner Derek Bishop said the ability to produce complex 3D shapes direct from computer-aided design data was "a valuable tool for product development".

Meanwhile, students from CPIT's applied sciences were looking into printing scale-model human organs.

Greasley said MRI scans of tumours and surrounding tissues could be printed in 3D, so surgeons could practise how to operate before the patient was even in the theatre.

Printing in 3D is straightforward. Objects are built using computer-aided design (CAD) software.

The CAD file is converted into a file the printer can read and the user changes the size, shape and orientation of the object on screen.

Over about 15 hours the printer slowly builds the object in layers 0.001 of a millimetre thin.

The printer coats the parts in a layer of wax to stabilise the object while it is being printed.

The wax is then soaked off in food-grade oil, washed in a mild detergent and is ready for use.

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- The Press

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